As it looks toward the next big shift in digital connection, Facebook has established a new Metaverse product group, which will focus on building the platform’s broader direction in the evolving space, including creator tools, virtual frameworks, advanced social features and more.
As explained by Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) chief Andrew Bosworth
“FRL has been focused on building products that deliver presence across digital spaces for years. Today Portal and Oculus can teleport you into a room with another person, regardless of physical distance, or to new virtual worlds and experiences. But to achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces – so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next.”
The new project group will work to establish key parameters in what’s now become a key focus for The Social Network.
As noted, with Facebook looking to the next stage of digital connection, the Metaverse concept is set to play a key part, with the platform looking to facilitate whole new forms of online interaction based on your digital self.
The Metaverse, in a basic sense, is a virtual realm where your digital persona can exist, and interact, in a range of ways, within a whole new space. Various iterations of this have been developed over time, including projects like Second Life and the evolving VR space, but the Metaverse is a more all-encompassing version of the same, where, ultimately, you’ll be able to feel like you’re actually present with others in a broader digital space.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out the importance of the Metaverse in the company’s plans last week, in an interview with The Verge.
As per Zuckerberg:
“The metaverse is a vision that spans many companies – the whole industry. You can think about it as the successor to the mobile internet. And it’s certainly not something that any one company is going to build, but I think a big part of our next chapter is going to hopefully be contributing to building that, in partnership with a lot of other companies and creators and developers.”
Indeed, Zuckerberg even noted that, over the next five years, he foresees Facebook evolving into ‘a Metaverse company’, with the digital realm set to incorporate all of Facebook’s various tools and platforms into a broader, all-encompassing experience.
Which may also spark a level of concern, given the significant power that Facebook already holds over our everyday lives and inputs. But this is Zuckerberg’s grand vision, and this new project group will be tasked with developing and advancing towards that next stage.
Further underlining this emphasis, and the importance that Facebook is placing on the project, it’s allocated some senior company leaders to the new group.
“To focus our efforts and deliver on this vision, we are bringing together the teams that have been driving some of this fundamental work under the new Metaverse PG. I’m excited to welcome Vishal Shah, who joins us from Instagram to lead this new product group; Vivek Sharma, who joins us from FB Gaming, will lead the Horizon teams, and Oculus OG Jason Rubin, who also joins from FB Gaming, will lead the Content team as he and Vivek continue their work with FB Gaming partners on expanding the size and capabilities of Facebook’s gaming platforms.”
Shah, in particular, has played a key role in developing Instagram’s creator tools, which he will now transition across to this bigger phase.
Excited to share that I’ll be leading the new Metaverse product group we’re building. We’ve laid the groundwork for this in the last few years and I’m eager to bring these initiatives together, especially as a platform for creators and developers to build an entirely new economy https://t.co/FIOYj0vzY7
— Vishal Shah (@vishalshahis) July 26, 2021
It’s an ambitious project, and it still feels largely conceptual, as it’s an unknown in many respects, given that we don’t know, for sure, how the Metaverse concept will evolve.
But it is evolving, in many ways – from the expansion of eCommerce to the evolution of AR to the boom in virtual clothing and outfits, and branching into VR. Each of these elements, within itself, has major potential, and the Metaverse will look to merge them all into a singularity, further expanding opportunities for expression, creativity, connection and more.
It’s a big, big concept, which is why Facebook is putting so much emphasis on it. And while you may not be able to envision it as yet, soon, it’ll become very clear, and present.
Snapchat Announces New Features for Snapchat+, Provides Insights on Snapchat+ Take-Up
Snapchat has announced some new additions to its Snapchat+ subscription offering, while it’s also shared some new insight into Snapchat+ take-up, which provides some more perspective on the potential of such options in the broader strategic scheme.
Snapchat+, which it launched in late June, enables Snap users to pay $3.99 per month to access a range of add-on elements including variable app icons, new data insights, and the capacity to pin a user in the app as ‘your #1 best friend’.
And now, Snap’s looking to sweeten the Snapchat+ deal, with subscribers now also able to access:
‘Priority Story Replies’, which makes your replies more visible to Snap Stars.
‘Post View Emoji’, through which you can pick a dedicated emoji that you want friends to see after they view your Snaps.
New Bitmoji Backgrounds including ‘gleaming gold’ and a beach paradise.
While there are also some new app icons thrown in for good measure, so you have even more ways to customize your Snap experience.
I mean, none of these are groundbreaking additions to the current offering. But even so, Snapchat+ clearly holds a level of appeal, with Snapchat also reporting that it now has over a million paying subscribers that have signed up to the option.
That’s an extra $4 million per month going straight into Snapchat’s coffers – so while it may not seem like an amazing, compelling package to casual users of the app, the numbers show that, even at marginal take-up (1 million subscribers equates to 0.29% of Snapchat’s active user base), such options can be significant earners for the apps themselves.
If they can get them right.
These latest features now give Snapchat+ subscribers access to 11 exclusive in-app features, which bests Twitter Blue’s 9 exclusive elements. Not that it’s a competition, because most of the people who are likely to pay for Snapchat+ are not going to be in the target market for Blue as well. But still, the two subscription elements provide an interesting parallel as to how these types of offerings can work – and indeed, if they actually do work in the broader scheme of things.
For example, it’s interesting to note the recent strategic variances for each, with Twitter recently increasing the price of Twitter Blue by 60%, despite adding no new features, and Snapchat announcing an India-only release of Snapchat+, at an 85% discount on the regular price.
Which strategy will work out best?
For Twitter, it’s likely upping the Blue price ahead of the addition of tweet editing, which looks close to launch, and which it probably expects to bring in a heap more paying subscribers, given that it’s the most requested social media feature in history.
Snapchat, meanwhile, is going for volume, and making its app more sticky in the Indian market, which could expand its usage in what’s now its biggest single biggest market, at 144 million Indian users.
Though when, exactly, those glasses might be coming could be further off than anticipated, given Snap’s recent spending reduction measures as a result of the broader downturn in the digital ads market.
But then again, what if Snap, which now has a huge and growing Indian presence, were to partner with Apple on its AR glasses, as a means for both to maximize take-up, and dominate the space? Meta, too, is looking to become the AR leader, as another element within its broader metaverse push, though it’s primarily focused on VR and building wholly immersive digital worlds.
That could open the door for Snap and Apple to win out, with the cool factor of Snap combined with the technology of Apple to build a more fashionable, appealing AR wearable product.
There’s nothing to suggest that such a partnership is on the cards as yet – though Snap has worked with Apple on various AR projects and elements in the past.
With this in mind, building audience could be a key step, which is why Snapchat’s approach to Snapchat+ may just be the better way to go, as opposed to Twitter’s thus far stumbling Twitter Blue strategy.
Snapchat says that it will ‘continue to drop more features’ for Snapchat+ over the coming months.
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